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Ann Holtzapple

Small Restaurant Kitchen Solutions to Maximize your Space

A restaurant kitchen is command central.  Everything a restaurant does — the food it serves, the morale of its staff, and the smoothness of its overall operations — depends on what’s happening in the kitchen. It follows that setting up your kitchen in the most effective, efficient way is a critical imperative for any foodservice business.

While designing a restaurant kitchen can be challenging under any circumstances, these challenges are multiplied for restaurants with small kitchens. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make the most of your commercial kitchen — even when space is limited.

Read on for four tips aimed at maximizing your restaurant kitchen space.


1. Lead with your Layout - Design Considerations

While there’s no precise formula for designing restaurant kitchen, most restaurants use one of three basic commercial kitchen layouts, including the following:

  • Island-style, which puts all major pieces of kitchen equipment in one shared, central space, aka “the island,” and other kitchen sections placed along the perimeter walls;
  • Zone-style, which organizes the kitchen into blocks with principle pieces of equipment placed along the walls in an order that optimizes flow; and
  • Assembly line, which is organized in a linear fashion progressing from food preparation to service areas.

While many experts agree that the assembly line layout — which locates non-principle areas, such as cleaning/washing and storage/receiving, behind the assembly line so they’re out of the way — best suits smaller kitchens, the right design for any foodservice operation relies on a number of factors, including the type of restaurant and number of seats.


2. Design a Mindful Menu

In its report  Small Wonder: The Case for Smaller Restaurants and How to Maximize Them, the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration instructs, “Design your menu to require only a few, flexible pieces of equipment. A well-crafted menu not only pleases your guests and generates good contribution margins but also makes effective use of the equipment you have. Eliminate any item on the menu that is the only dish that uses a particular piece of equipment.

Think about equipment that inherently offers flexibility: sauté ranges, griddles, combi ovens or convection ovens.  In other words, the food you serve is a factor of the space you have available to you, and the space that you have available to you is largely reliant on the equipment you use.


3. Choose the Right Kitchen Equipment

Which brings us to our next point: Kitchen equipment. All kitchen equipment is not created equal. But just because you have to think small in terms of square footage doesn’t mean you have to think small in terms of the performance of your equipment. This is what makes Vulcan equipment a wise investment for any commercial kitchen.

Equipment like Vulcan’s modular V Series Range Line, Versatile Chef Station (VCS) and compact-but-mighty Minijet™ Series Mini Combi oven are the embodiment of mindful.

Meanwhile, equipment which makes use of countertop space, including Vulcan’s Hand Tilting Counter Kettles and CEF Countertop Fryer, free up premium floor space without sacrificing convenience, practicality, or output. Or if you have a bit more space to spare, the 35 lb VEG Series Gas fryer only spans 15" and cooks 10 lbs/hr more than a traditional 35 pound fryer.

To maximize space, trying topping a refrigerated base with one of Vulcan's gas or electric half-sized ovens. It's a perfect fit.


4. Store Smarter - Organizational Considerations

Smart storage — and a mindfully organized storage area — further supports kitchen efficiency. But splitting your storage area into cold, dry and non-food storage sections is just the start of taking your storage setup to the next level. Consider Vulcan’s visionary Refrigerated Chef Base/Stand with Drawers, which performs double duty by serving as both countertop space and cold storage for the ultimate in multitasking functionality. Or, you can even place equipment on top of the bases for an added space-saving option.

While a small restaurant kitchen has its difficulties, it’s not all downsides. (After all, Cornell University did declare small restaurants to be “small wonders.”) By following the four tips above, you can turn obstacles into opportunities to design a commercial kitchen capable of doing much more with much less.


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